Cohen's ties to Trump, corporate clients pose questions

Posted May 12, 2018

"Our company has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons these last few days and our reputation has been damaged", Stephenson said.

Giuliani said he was trying to say that AT&T's payments to Cohen didn't sway Trump's personal point of view about the deal.

Cohen and others were hired to help navigate "a wide range of issues", including its proposed US$85 billion merger with Time Warner Inc, CEO Randall Stephenson said in a memo seen by Reuters.

Federal prosecutors are investigating Cohen's business dealings, including a $130,000 payment he made to pornographic film actress Stephanie Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels, as part of a deal to buy her silence about an affair she says she had with Trump.

Giuliani joined Trump's legal team amid the investigation into Russian collusion by special counsel Robert Mueller, but has reportedly irked Trump with his performance in a series of explosive television interviews, telling Fox News that Trump authorized the hush money paid to Clifford, before later backtracking on the claims in a statement. Norvartis' current chief executive, Vasant Narasimhan, also distanced himself from Cohen, saying this week that he had no role in the decision to hire Cohen. Within Time Warner this week, officials were surprised to learn about the contract with Essentials Consulting.

Novartis paid Cohen $1.2 million dollars over twelve months after Cohen pitched his services to the company early in 2017, according to spokesman Eric Althoff. There has been no communication with Mueller's office since then, the company said.

Avenatti has declined to reveal his sources for the information he released, several companies have now publicly confirmed their consulting deals with Cohen. "AT&T has a lucrative business merger being blocked by Trump's Department of Justice".

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The internal AT&T documents show that Cohen was supposed to spend half of his time on "legislative policy development" and the other half on "regulatory policy development". But like the rest of the nation's capital, it was caught on the outside looking in by Donald Trump's election triumph. The group will now report directly to the firm's top in-house lawyer.

Avenatti said he was aware of four months of payments to Cohen totaling $200,000.

A Novartis spokesman said the company anticipated Wyden's letter and plans to fully cooperate.

Wyden, a Democrat from OR, noted in a letter to Narasimhan that at the time Novartis was paying Cohen, it was seeking approval and negotiating a payment deal with the US government for a cancer drug called Kymriah that has a list price of $475,000.

"I think it's pretty clear, the Department of Justice opposed the [AT&T/Time Warner] merger, and so certainly the president has not been influenced, or his administration influenced, by any outside special interest", Sanders beamed. But there were persistent questions about possible political interference, especially in light of the president's well-publicized disdain for both CNN and attorney general Jeff Sessions. Trump repeatedly has bashed CNN, a unit of Time Warner.

But many outlets have done just that, as the pending decision by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon is a pending development in what has proven to be a tangled story line.

The Associated Press contributed to this record.